BIG AGENDA MEETS ELECTION YEAR

In this abbreviated last year of the 105th Congress, action on the legislative agenda is taking a back seat to Republican efforts to keep the political waters calm in anticipation of November elections. Nevertheless, the grocery industry has a lengthy agenda of items it is seeking to advance or delay. Officials acknowledge that much of their work this year is designed to pave the way for action when

In this abbreviated last year of the 105th Congress, action on the legislative agenda is taking a back seat to Republican efforts to keep the political waters calm in anticipation of November elections. Nevertheless, the grocery industry has a lengthy agenda of items it is seeking to advance or delay. Officials acknowledge that much of their work this year is designed to pave the way for action when the 106th Congress convenes in January 1999.

ars to be little consensus on disputed details.

The industry is critical of details of a proposed settlement with tobacco companies. Specifically, retailers and wholesalers criticize proposed higher taxes on packages of cigarettes and proposed penalties on retailers who sell tobacco products to underage smokers.

A plan to raise the minimum wage has emerged from congressional Democrats with backing from the Clinton White House. The proposal would raise the $5.15 hourly wage floor by $1 in two stages by 2000. The last increase was less than a year ago. Industry officials fear that Republicans will not fight against the measure as diligently as they may need to because of election-year pressures.

The industry is objecting to legislation that would require retailers to label imported produce by country of origin at the final point of sale or face stiff monetary penalties. Another measure criticized by the industry would require country-of-origin labeling of a meat product and of the animal from which the meat is derived.

Efforts continue to block regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration governing ergonomics.

The industry is seeking to protect its ERISA pre-emption to allow employers to continue to provide employees with health insurance benefits. It is opposing a plan that would subject employer-sponsored group health plans to state regulation in a number of areas.

A plan that would permit creation of blacklists barring employers from doing business ith the federal government if they are alleged to have unsatisfactory labor and employment practices is opposed by the industry.

Efforts to exempt inside sales people from overtime requirements are backed by the industry. These appear to be moving quicker in the House than in the Senate.